Jim Armitage: A rare exposure of dodgy dealing that reveals the real charade in the City
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 14 March 2012
Outlook: Ah, the bankers. Free market economics dictate that they are worth more than doctors, scientists or engineers. Hence those bonuses. Question their bosses about these individuals' pay and they will urge you to consider Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi: "These guys are one in a million. Genius risk takers, brain surgeons. You have to pay them big money because no one else can do what they do."
The case of Nicholas Kyprios throws that into doubt. As Credit Suisse's head of European credit sales in Canary Wharf, you can bet he's not short of a bob or two – six-figure bonus territory, easily. By the banking bosses' arguments, he is, therefore, one of the gilded few. The brightest of the bright.
Yet here he is starring in a Financial Services Authority probe playing a multimillion-euro version of "warm and warmer" over inside corporate information with a client. Making it clear that he would offer up the name of a secret takeover target, Unity Media, Mr Kyprios leads him up through the alphabet until he guesses the name. "I can't get any "Unity" into my hearing!" the client says, codedly: to Mr Kyprios's laughter. My eight-year-old is more subtle.
Not only must Mr Kyprios have known it was illegal, but he wasn't even bright enough to use his personal mobile phone – he did it all on the recorded line at his desk.
Pretty stupid, then, our Nicholas. Pretty bogus to suggest he and his type deserve such vast pay.
But that's the sucker's interpretation. The fact is, time and again when you read the FSA notices on dodgy behaviour in the big investment banks, the culprits' brazenness beggars belief. The real conclusion we should draw is not that they're super-thick – believe me, they're not – but that this kind of behaviour is so commonplace that they don't even think twice about it. They think: none of my mates have ever been caught, the clients are all in on the game, c'est la vie, right?
Ninety-nine percent of the time: right. And against that paltry 1 per cent chance of getting caught, of course it makes sense to break the rules. It's the clever play.
If I wasn't right on this, Credit Suisse would have been as outraged as the rest of us should be by Mr Kyprios's actions. He would have been fired with no pay and never worked in finance again. Instead, he gets to keep his high-flying job and half of his bonus. A fine example for his staff.
And we outside the Square Mile scratch our heads, powerless to stop the whole charade. So who are the stupid ones?
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